Jun 222016

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We could not have done more – Hodgson

England manager Roy Hodgson says he does not fear anyone in the knockout stages, which is fair enough, but I do not see any teams being scared of playing us either.

I do not want to be too negative but we have had three games at Euro 2016 so far and we were held by Russia, who are the worst team in the tournament, we beat Wales with a last-minute goal and we could not score against Slovakia.

I have not changed my mind about what I said on BBC One after the Slovakia game on Monday – I don’t think Roy knows his best XI, or his best system, and that is where we are struggling.

It is not a total disaster finishing second in Group B, because we can still get a favourable tie depending on who is runner-up in Group F out of Portugal, Austria, Iceland and Hungary.

Group B final standings

But, whoever we are up against, we are going to have to improve. Roy says we are ready to give someone a hiding, and I hope we do, but we are going to have to click in front of goal pretty soon or the worst will happen.

We are in the same half of the draw as Germany, Spain, Italy and hosts France, who would be our likely opponents if we reach the quarter-finals, but I am not looking that far ahead.

I think this tournament is wide open, which is a big positive for England, but at the moment we should only be thinking about how we will get through the last 16.

We have not got results playing 4-3-3

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Highlights: Slovakia 0-0 England

I was very surprised at the number of changes Roy made against Slovakia, because it was a chance to gather some momentum. Particularly after the way we beat Wales, another good performance and win would have set us up for the tournament.

That is gone now, though. Instead we are back to asking a lot of questions about the England team and their tactics.

My concern, especially at this stage of the competition, is we do not have a reliable system to fall back on.

We have not got results playing in a 4-3-3 formation and I think part of the problem is that we do not have the players in our squad to use it effectively.

Other than Raheem Sterling, whose confidence seemed shot to bits in the first two games, we do not have any genuine wingers – our width has to come from our full-backs.

During his 75 minutes on the pitch against Slovakia, Sturridge had three shots – one was on target and the other two were blocked

Daniel Sturridge has been out there on the right of our three-man attack but he does not really want to play out there. He wants to play in the middle and be a centre-forward.

Sterling has had his chance and didn’t take it. Now we seem to be scrambling around to find a combination that works and it is all a bit confusing.

We need more guile in the final third to open teams up. Like Kyle Walker in our first two games, Nathaniel Clyne got forward well down that flank against Slovakia but they kept forcing us inside where there was no space and, in the end, we just ran out of ideas.

A midfield diamond, and any two from three up front

For our next game, in Nice on Monday, I would prefer we played a 4-2-3-1 or with a midfield diamond as it is a better fit for the players we have.

My diamond would have Eric Dier sitting, Dele Alli and Adam Lallana on the left and right, and Wayne Rooney just behind the front duo, who would be any two from Sturridge, Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane.

I called for Vardy and Sturridge to start against Slovakia – which happened, but with Sturridge on the right – and they struggled to make an impact. Whoever plays, they should both stay central.

It is ironic that, like a lot of people before the tournament, I was worried about our defence but it is our forwards who are finding things hard at the moment. It is just not happening for them.

Passing and possession counts for nothing without goals

England lacked potency in attack against Slovakia

We have seen a lot of teams at this tournament sitting very deep, especially in the final round of group games where they have been looking for a point to get through.

When you get to the knockout stage at a major finals, things are often very different but the standard at this expanded finals is not very high and some of the weaker teams will make it.

A lot of them are defensive-minded and, having seen England play they will probably be thinking they will stay deep, because we will not break them down.

If we can score a goal, that all changes, which is why we have to be more clinical when we do open teams up.

It is all well and good to say we have been dominating games in terms of possession and passing but if you do not score then that means nothing, as was proved by Leicester in the Premier League last season.

There have been some positives – our best three players so far have been Walker, Rooney and Dier, who I thought was superb with his range of passing against Slovakia.

But, in terms of positions, they are a full-back and two midfielders – one of them holding – which sort of sums up where England’s problems have been in this tournament – in attack.

Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan in France.

Who do you think should start? It’s crunch time at Euro 2016 so pick your XI – and then share it with your friends using our team selector.

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Jun 222016
Burton, second in League One last season, face their first-ever match against former European champions Nottingham Forest on Saturday, 8 August

Relegated Newcastle United will kick off the 2016-17 English Football League season with a Championship trip to Fulham on Friday, 5 August.

Norwich and Aston Villa, who finished below Newcastle in the Premier League last term, start at Blackburn and Sheffield Wednesday respectively.

Burton Albion begin their first season in the second tier away at neighbours Nottingham Forest.

League One winners Wigan are at 2014-15 third-tier champions Bristol City.

Play-off winners Barnsley, who beat Millwall at Wembley to earn promotion to the Championship, start their season at Portman Road against Ipswich Town.

In the pick of the Boxing Day matches, former European champions Villa, returning to the second tier for the first time in 28 years, are at home to Burton, who were in non-league until 2009.

The Clough factor

Nigel Clough made 324 appearances for Nottingham Forest in his playing career, and managed Burton Albion to League One promotion last term

Burton’s trip to the City Ground to face Nottingham Forest will not only be the first meeting between the two neighbours, but will also see Brewers boss Nigel Clough take his side to a club he and his family will forever be entwined with.

Clough had two spells at Forest, playing under his legendary father Brian, who won the European Cup twice with the club before his son’s playing career had started.

Nigel Clough’s first managerial role came at Burton, taking the Staffordshire side out of non-league for the first time ever seven years ago before leaving for spells at Derby and Sheffield United.

But he returned to the near-7,000-capacity Pirelli Stadium in December 2015 after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink left for QPR and led the Brewers to a second-placed finish in League One.

The league of derbies

The Championship will play host to the second city, East Midlands and East Anglian derbies

This season will see a bumper crop of derby fixtures across the Championship, including the first second city derby between Villa and Birmingham City in the league for five years on 29 October at St Andrew’s.

Villa host neighbours Wolves on 15 October, while Kenny Jackett’s side travel the 19 miles to face Blues on 20 August.

Another highly-anticipated rivalry every season is when Derby meet Forest in the East Midlands derby, the first of which is scheduled to take place on 10 December at the iPro Stadium.

The Rams also take on East Midlands rivals Burton on 27 August, while the East Anglian derby between Ipswich and Norwich reignites after a one-season break on 20 August at Portman Road.

The best of League One and League Two

MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon have faced each other three times in cup competitions before, but never in the league until this season

In League One, Bolton Wanderers will begin life back in the third tier of English football for the first time since 1992-93 with a home game against Sheffield United.

Relegated Charlton and MK Dons are away at Bury and Shrewsbury respectively, while in a quirk of fate Rochdale host Peterborough United on the opening day for the third season in a row.

The 2016-17 season will also be the first time AFC Wimbledon and MK Dons will face each other in the league, with the first game set to be on 10 December at Stadium MK.

In the fourth tier, relegated Blackpool start with a home match against Exeter City, five years after they were relegated from the Premier League.

And Carlisle United supporters face a mammoth 700-mile opening weekend round trip to Portsmouth.

The League One season will conclude on 30 April and the play-off final held on 20 May – one week earlier than the rest of the English Football League, because of the FA Cup final being played at Wembley on Saturday, 27 May.

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Highlights: Northern Ireland 0-1 Germany

Northern Ireland joined England and Wales in the last 16 of the European Championship after finishing as one of the best third-placed teams.

Northern Ireland – in their first appearance at a Euros and first major tournament since 1986 – will now meet either Wales or France for a place in the quarter-finals.

Michael O’Neill’s side lost 1-0 to Germany on Tuesday but finished third in Group C, with their tally of three points enough to see them advance on goal difference.

The four best third-placed teams qualify. Since Turkey and Albania have played all their games and have an inferior record to Northern Ireland, Michael O’Neill’s side are guaranteed a place in the knockout phase

Turkey’s 2-0 victory against the Czech Republic ensured that Northern Ireland will be one of the four best third-placed teams who will go on to join the group winners and runners-up in the knockout stages.

A tie against Wales would take place on Saturday (kick-off 17:00 BST) in Paris, or they will play France in Lyon on Sunday (14:00).

The Republic of Ireland will qualify for the last 16 if they beat Italy on Wednesday (20:00 BST).

Italy, who are already through to the next round for a last-16 meeting with holders Spain, are set to make “between seven and nine” changes for the game, according to boss Antonio Conte.

‘It’s surreal – a fantastic achievement’

“It’s surreal,” O’Neill told BBC Radio 5 live. “We were just on the coach so have been following on the BBC website. I’m not sure it’s really sunk in yet, but it’s a fantastic achievement.

“We knew the group would be difficult. What we saw tonight was a team that refused to be beaten by a big margin and did everything possible to stay in the game.

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Northern Ireland’s ‘fantastic’ goalkeeper Michael McGovern analysed

“Over the three games we deserve to be in the last 16. What we went through tonight will prepare us for anything in the next round and our players will be ready for whoever.”

Asked whether he would rather face Wales or France, O’Neill added: “If I was picking a team I thought we had a better chance against I would say Wales, but we’ll see who comes out after the final group games on Wednesday.”

Wales now know that they will either play Northern Ireland, Turkey or Albania.

Roy Hodgson’s England side play their last-16 match on Monday at 20:00 BST against the side that finishes second in Group F.

A costly result for England?

By failing to finish top of Group B, England now find themselves in the same side of the draw as Spain, Italy, Germany, France and, potentially, Portugal.

Wales’ reward for finishing in first place is an apparently kinder route through the tournament.

Switzerland, Poland and Croatia are in their side of the draw and could be joined by Belgium and Portugal if they both qualify from their respective groups. Belgium face Sweden in Group E on Wednesday, while Portugal play Hungary in Group F.

Defending champions Spain lost for the first time at a European Championship since 2004 when they were beaten 2-1 by Croatia on Tuesday.

They will face Italy in the last 16 and, like England, will have to come through a tough side of the draw to reach the final.

Who else has qualified?

Group A: France and Switzerland

Group B: Wales and England

Group C: Germany and Poland

Group D: Croatia and Spain

Group E: Italy

Group F: Hungary

Best third-placed teams: Slovakia and Northern Ireland

Who else can still go through?

A further two best third-placed spots are still available for the last 16 stage, with Albania clinging on having gained three points in Group A.

Two further places are still up for grabs in Groups E and F who play their final group matches on Wednesday.

Who is out?

Romania, Russia and the Czech Republic managed just one point each and Ukraine failed to collect a goal or a point.

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Euro 2016: Croatia 2-1 Spain highlights

Spain will play Italy in the last 16 of Euro 2016 after a late Croatia winner condemned them to second in Group D.

Spain took the lead when Cesc Fabregas dinked the ball over keeper Danijel Subasic and Alvaro Morata tapped in.

An Ivan Rakitic lob hit the woodwork for Croatia, who equalised when Nikola Kalinic turned in Ivan Perisic’s cross.

Subasic saved a Sergio Ramos penalty and Perisic’s late winner gave Croatia, who finished top of the group, a tie against a third-placed qualifier.

Perisic lashed in an 87th-minute shot in a thrilling match to inflict Spain’s first defeat in 15 games at the European Championship since losing to Portugal in Euro 2004.

Croatia will now play on Saturday in Lens, while Spain’s mouth-watering tie against Italy will take place on Monday in Paris.

Relive Croatia v Spain

Spain conceded their first goal after 735 minutes at the Euros when Kalinic scored

Spain’s defence looks suspect

This was an eagerly anticipated game because of the quality at Croatia’s disposal and the type of test they were expected to give the reigning champions.

From that point of view, Croatia pressed and pushed further up than Spain’s previous opponents – Turkey and the Czech Republic – and, despite going behind, caused plenty of moments of uncertainty at the back for Vicente del Bosque’s side.

Spain centre-back Ramos gave the ball away early on and Perisic had a shot palmed away by keeper David de Gea.

De Gea was then dispossessed by Kalinic and the ball fell to Rakitic, whose chip hit the crossbar and the post before bouncing the wrong side of the post for Croatia.

Spain again dominated possession but their resistance was finally broken when they conceded their first goal in 735 minutes at the Euros as Kalinic stole in front of Ramos to turn in Perisic’s left-wing cross.

A weak punch from De Gea led to him having to save Tin Jedvaj’s shot before Marko Pjaca sent an overhead kick wide.

Spain’s keeper and their defence looked vulnerable when exposed before they were caught out on the counter-attack, with Perisic’s strike beating De Gea at his near post.

Spain’s heatmap (right) shows they had plenty of possession in midfield but failed to turn it into goals

Croatia’s strength in depth

Croatia coach Ante Cacic made five changes while his team were without key midfielder Luka Modric and striker Mario Mandzukic through injury.

Nevertheless, they managed to provide further evidence they pose a danger to any team in the tournament by not only showing character to come back from a goal down but discipline in defence and a threat when going forward.

Perisic and captain Darijo Srna are key to their play with their energetic running on the flanks and ability to whip in dangerous crosses, like the one which led to the equaliser.

Croatia, who left Ramos unmarked twice from crosses only for him to fail to get his headers on target, were angered by the penalty award for Sime Vrsaljko’s challenge on David Silva and will have felt justice was done when Subasic, who was three yards off his goal-line, saved.

In another plus for Croatia, there was no trouble from their fans following the crowd unrest and throwing of flares on to the pitch which marred their draw with Czech Republic.

Man of the match – Ivan Perisic

Only Davor Suker (10 – nine goals, one assist) has been involved in more goals for Croatia in major tournaments than Ivan Perisic (seven – four goals, three assists)

‘We have to rise to the situation’

Croatia boss Ante Cacic: “This team is like our nation. The players have shown how to represent your country and how to behave.

“I wanted to play the next match with really fresh players. It’s a huge achievement, and now we can be even more self-confident.”

Spain manager Vicente del Bosque: “The players were sat in silence. They don’t enjoy losing. We had the game under control, I’m not going to defend our performance excessively but I think we played quite well.

“We didn’t hold on to the ball as well as we should have [before the winning goal] and weren’t ready for the counter attack. But we’re still in the competition, we are not on the path we wanted to be but we have to rise to the situation.”

Pundit analysis

Former Wales forward and BBC Radio 5 live summariser John Hartson: “I think Croatia have deserved it, Spain have played some good football, easy on the eye, but they were not clinical enough in front of goal.”

The stats you need to know

  • This is the first time Spain have ever lost a game in a Euro finals tournament after being ahead.
  • Sergio Ramos is the first Spanish player to miss a penalty at a European Championship since Raul v France in 2000.
  • Cesc Fabregas has been involved in more goals than any other Spaniard at Euro finals (three goals, five assists).

Live Text

Match ends, Croatia 2, Spain 1.

Second Half ends, Croatia 2, Spain 1.

Offside, Croatia. Ivan Rakitic tries a through ball, but Duje Cop is caught offside.

Substitution, Croatia. Andrej Kramaric replaces Ivan Perisic.

Substitution, Croatia. Duje Cop replaces Marko Pjaca.

Foul by Sergio Busquets (Spain).

Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Sergio Ramos (Spain) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Nikola Kalinic (Croatia).

Ivan Perisic (Croatia) is shown the yellow card for excessive celebration.

Goal! Croatia 2, Spain 1. Ivan Perisic (Croatia) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Nikola Kalinic following a fast break.

Attempt blocked. Aduriz (Spain) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Sergio Busquets.

Substitution, Spain. Thiago Alcántara replaces Cesc Fàbregas.

Foul by Cesc Fàbregas (Spain).

Darijo Srna (Croatia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution, Croatia. Mateo Kovacic replaces Marko Rog.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Vedran Corluka (Croatia) because of an injury.

Attempt missed. Sergio Ramos (Spain) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by David Silva with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Spain. Conceded by Darijo Srna.

Sergio Ramos (Spain) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Ivan Perisic (Croatia).

Attempt missed. Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) right footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.

Foul by Aduriz (Spain).

Milan Badelj (Croatia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Penalty saved! Sergio Ramos (Spain) fails to capitalise on this great opportunity, right footed shot saved in the centre of the goal.

Darijo Srna (Croatia) is shown the yellow card.

Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Penalty Spain. David Silva draws a foul in the penalty area.

Penalty conceded by Sime Vrsaljko (Croatia) after a foul in the penalty area.

Sergio Ramos (Spain) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Darijo Srna (Croatia).

Foul by Cesc Fàbregas (Spain).

Darijo Srna (Croatia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Sergio Ramos (Spain) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by David Silva with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Spain. Conceded by Vedran Corluka.

Substitution, Spain. Aduriz replaces Álvaro Morata.

Corner, Spain. Conceded by Milan Badelj.

Attempt blocked. Jordi Alba (Spain) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Álvaro Morata.

Substitution, Spain. Bruno replaces Nolito.

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Rooney (left) is England’s goal scorer with 52 goals in 114 appearances

England manager Roy Hodgson says he has no regrets over his team selection against Slovakia despite captain Wayne Rooney’s surprise at being dropped.

BBC Sport understands Rooney was surprised to have been left out of the starting XI as England drew 0-0 to finish second behind Wales in Group B.

The Manchester United player was one of six changes, with Hodgson criticised after his decision backfired.

“I never have regrets if the team has played well,” said Hodgson.

Hodgson’s future depends on how England fare at Euro 2016 and a runners-up spot means a potentially trickier route through the knockout stages.

France, Spain, Italy and Germany are all now on England’s side of the draw, rather than that of Wales.

The 68-year-old’s contract expires at the end of the tournament and Football Association chairman Greg Dyke said it will only be renewed if England “do well” – with reports